RAJSHAHI, Oct 17: Puthia Rajbari, a palace in Puthia Upazila of Rajshahi, is an example of Indo-Saracenic revival architecture.
The historical structure stands on the Rajshahi-Natore highway, 30 kilometres away from the city.
The palace is also distinguished for its exquisitely designed two-storey complex which is unparalleled in beauty and structural pattern and also for its intricately designed terracotta temples.
According to sources, Puthia, once known as Laskarpur Pargana was founded by Pathan Laskar Khan.
During the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar, Laskar Khan refused to pay revenue to the tax collectors of Akbar and locked in a battle with Akbar's head of armed forces Mansigh. Mansingh defeated Laskar Khan and banished him from Puthia.
After defeating Laskar Khan, Mansingh leased the Laskarpur Pargana to saint Batsaracharya but he refused to take responsibility of the estate and the estate was then leased to his son Pitambar. Pitambar established the Puthia dynasty in the region.
However, Pitambor died at a young age and the Puthia dynasty was then divided between his brothers Nilambar and Pushporaskha.
Pushporaskha having no issue, Nilambar became the sole owner of the Puthia dynasty. Being tactful and generous, Nilambar was adjudged as the 'King' by the emperor Jahangir. Later, Nilambar's son Anandaram owned the title of King and got recognition from the Nawab.
It is learnt, Raghunandan, son of Kamdev, a revenue collector of a king of Puthia, used to work as a gardener. Raghunandan being witty and far-sighted, the king appointed him as the counselor at the court of the Nawab. Being charmed with the wit and intelligence of Raghunandan, Nawab Murshid Kuli Khan appointed him the Nayeb or Kanungo of Darpanarayan, the king of Puthia.
There is a myth that once Raghunandan was fast asleep inside his flower garden at noon when some members of the king's family watched a poisonous snake was guarding him by spreading its hood.
Hearing the news, then king of Puthia Darpanarayan announced that Raghunath will once become a king. And he ultimately became the king of the Natore dynasty.
Afterwards, during the rule of Lord Cornwallis, Ananda Narayan became the king of Puthia dynasty. Bhupendra Narayan became the next king of Puthia and after his death, his wife Sree Bhubanmoyee Devi became famous for her generous and humanitarian works.
Due to quarrel among the descendants of the kings of Puthia, the estate or Zamindari was divided into several parts of which the names of Panch-Ani and Char-Ani kings were worth-mentioning.
A large water-body (dighi) known as Sagar Dighi is still seen in the middle of the palace of the Zaminders.
There are several remains of small buildings at the south side, which are learnt to be housed by the Ek-Ani and Tin-Ani Zaminders.
Among the kings of Puthia, name of Paresh Narayan is worth mentioning. He established several schools in the area. The northern side of the palace compound of the kings of Puthia is surrounded by a large circular water-body or trench with a spacious Ghat with ladder.
There remains a large stable for keeping horses of the Char-Ana king.
Puthia's kings and queens including Paresh Narayan, Sarat Kumar and Rani Hemanta Kumari were fond of horses.
Regular horse races were held in Rajshahi and Natore where horses of Puthia kings used to participate.
Most of the kings were also fond of hunting, fishing and gardening.
A seven-day long fair was organised in Puthia every year during the Ratha Yatra festival of Sree Jagannath Dev.
The kings of Puthia also introduced the same month long fair of Ratha Yatra in Rajshahi town. Circus and Jatra (Drama) teams from Calcutta used to perform in the fair.
Playing of Pasha ( Board game played with chess) was very fond of the kings of Panch-Ani.
Many British elites and traders from Rajshahi and Natore used to throng at the palace of Panch-Ani king to participate in the game of pasha which was in fact a gambling.
Three queens of Puthia dynasty are famous for their social and humanitarian activities.
In fact, then Rajshahi town was bestowed with the donations and development activities of two queens of Puthia and one queen of Natore.
They are known as Moharani Sarat Sundari, wife of King Jogendra Narayana, Rani Hemanta Kumari Devi, daughter-in-law of Jogendra Narayan and wife of King Joytindar Narayan and Rani Bhabai of Natore.
For the humanitarian and welfare oriented social works, the British rulers wanted to entitle Rani Sarat Sundari Devi as the Moharani ( Great Queen) but she refused to accept the title saying her only motto is to serve the suffering humanities and that is why it was unlikely that she would use the title.
Moreover, she was then a widow; that is why she said it was unlikely that a widow should be enjoy any title of honour given by the alien people. This renowned queen died in Kashi in 1293 BS (Bangla Year).
Like Rani Sarat Sundari Devi, queen Hemanta Kumari, daughter-in-law of Sarat Sundari, was also a devoted social worker and development activist.
She established Hemanta Kumari Sanskrit College in Rajshahi. To ensure supply of pure drinking water for people of Rajshahi, she established Rani Heamata Kumari Water works in 1835 which is still visible in Rajshahi city.
She also established Hemanta Kumari Hindu Hostel adjacent to Rajshahi College.
Naresh Narayan was the last king of Puthia dynasty whose wife was Rani Swornomoyee. A road named Rani Swornomoyee Road still bears the memory of the late queen in Kolkata.
Puthia Rajbari or Puthia Palace was established in 1895 by famous queen Rani Hemanta Kumari in memory of her mother-in-law Maharani Sarat Sundari Devi.
It is an exquisitely designed building made by following architectural designs of Indo-Greek-Roman civilisation.
In recent past, Puthia Laskarpur Degree Mahavidya Niketon was housed in this palace.
But with handover of the palace to the Archeology Department, the college has been shifted to other location.
Sagar, Site Caretaker of Puthia Palace informed the palace is being maintained properly since after the Department of Archeology took the charge of the palace.
Moammad Wali Uzzaman, Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Puthia, Puthia Rajbari, is a historical asset of the country.
The Department of Archaeology is now responsible to supervise the entire complex and he hoped soon it will be turned into a famous tourist spot.